Monday, January 31, 2011

This Week in Motorsport
This weekend saw the running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona (a.k.a. the 24 Hours of Daytona), the opening round & crown jewel of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Sure, I don't like the Rolex Sports Car Series as well as the American Le Mans Series (A.L.M.S.), & I weep at the thought of that sorry circuit at Daytona as the "heart of American motorsport," but there are six weeks 'til the first round of the Formula One World Championships & seven weeks 'til the 12 Hours of Sebring, the beginning of the A.L.M.S. season; you know the bit about beggars & choosers. I watched the day-long race only sporadically, but 'twas a delight to hear again the dulcet tones of Bob Varsha & David Hobbes, two of the three chaps who anchor Speed's coverage of F1.

Possibly interesting fact: my fathers refers disdainfully to Porsches as "panzers." This apparently dates back to the early '70s, when the Porsche 917/10 dominated the Can-Am series, acquiring a reputation as the "Can-Am Killer," though in reality the Arab oil embargo played a much more significant role in Can-Am's demise. McLaren's apparently dominated Can-Am for years prior to the arrival of the "panzers," yet I've never heard him utter a word against the New Zealanders. An additionally curious facet of his antipathy toward Porsche is his expertise in & extensive collection of models based on the tanks designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche before & during the Second World War. He's go no problem with actual Porsche panzers, only the racing "panzers."

24 Heures du Mans
Audi has unveiled their new closed-cockpit Le Mans prototype, the R18; let's hope it looks better once it's in full racing livery: R18link. The R18 won't race at Sebring, where Peugeot are expected to debut their new 90X (nine-oh-ex, not ninety-ex); instead, Audi will compete with the R15 Plus, which depended on reliability not speed to beat the retired Peugeot 908.

There are new regulations for 2011: will this be the year that a petrol-powered car can challenge the dominance of Audi's & Peugeot's Diesels?

American Le Mans Series
The A.L.M.S. has sold its soul to E.S.P.N., a vicious cancer at the heart of modern American sport. This year's races won't be presented in their entirety on T.V., only on the website, with edited recap versions to be broadcast later on E.S.P.N. 2 & A.B.C. I watched an edited recap version of a race last year on C.B.S., & it was unpalatable. So, from my perspective the A.L.M.S. just isn't going to be on T.V. at all. The president of the series has put up a couple of videos explaining that T.V. & the internet are basically the same thing these days; so, this is a great deal "for the fans." I beg to differ, in that the chair at the desk in my room upon which sits my Mac Mini & flatscreen monitor is not nearly so comfortable as the plump green armchair with matching ottoman from which I have heretofore watched motorsport (with the expection of those few hours of the 2010 24 Heures du Mans that were not broadcast on Speed, but rather streamed on I spend long hours in my room at my desk studying & using the internet; part of the joy of motorsport has been that it gets me out of the ten-foot-by-ten-foot cell for a breath of proverbial fresh air. I'm surely not going to sit in here for the half-a-day of the 12 Hours of Sebring, nor the ten hours of the season-ending Petit Le Mans. And I have no ability to record streaming races for later viewing; so, during those times when I'm unavailable to watch the race as it happens, I just won't be able to see the race at all. I loved watching the A.L.M.S. in '10 & will try to make the best of '11, but to quote almost every character in Star Wars, "I've got a bad feeling about this." I am in the process of composing a missive to the A.L.M.S. leadership expressing my dismay at this wrongheaded decision, but despite their hypocritical insistence that everything they do is "for the fans," we don't amount to a hill of beans next to the lucrative bribes & enticements emanating from the den of iniquity known as Bristol, Connecticut.

Formula One
Scuderia Ferrari has named their 2011 car the F150, in honor of Italy's sesquicentennial. I mention this mostly as an excuse to type the word sesquicentennial, toward which I shall always have warm feelings due to the celebration of Michigan's sesquicentennial of statehood in 1987, when I was a wee lad. Who doesn't love a good sesquicentennial? Happy sesquicentennial, Italy, you land-grabbing fiends! (Give us back the Papal States!)

On Friday, I motored to B.F.E. (Davison) for Love/Hate's birthday party. It is a sadly accurate measure of her immaturity, perhaps even infantilism, that she regards herself as "old" now that she's twenty-three. Through no skill of mine own, I dodged a bullet there. Stupid child. I use the term "party" loosely: the gathering consisted for communal observation of one or two of our number playing with the Kinect system for the Xbox 360, & later of communal viewing of an episode of Ghost Adventures. I had fun, I'm not trying to say I didn't, I'm simply dubious that those activities really amount to a party.

To the party, I wore my brand-new fez. I love owning a fez.
Requiescat in Pace
John Barry (1933-2011), the man who gave James Bond his cinematic sound: In memoriamlink. May the Lord have mercy on his soul.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of Mourning
John Barry, "007" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Barry was largely responsible for the "James Bond Theme," but the authorship is disputed, with official credit given to Monty Norman, who is willing to sue for libel anyone who claims otherwise. (My lack of pecuniary resources provides me with a type of immunity from such suits.) To mourn Barry's demise, I thought it better to use a song indisputably of his, "007," conceived as something of a alternate James Bond theme for the film From Russia With Love. Thank you, Mr. Barry.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXX - The Komodo dragon, a monster so terrible it is most aptly described as a "dragon."

Operation AXIOM: The Stars My Destination
Friday, 28 January, marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Challenger disaster, the death of seven American astronauts in the explosive destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger. A schoolteacher-cum-astronaut was aboard the Challenger for STS-15-L on 28 January 1986, the inaugural flight of the Teacher in Space Project, & so your humble narrator, alongside his fellow students at McGrath Elementary, was watching the launch & subsequent disaster live on television. For weeks afterward, not a day passed when the horrible explosion was not to be seen on the nightly news. As long as I live I will never forget the sight. This was a formative influence on my six-and-a-half-year-old self. Please spare a moment to remember those seven brave souls, who boldly challenged the heavens in the name of science & patriotism. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten: (also honoring those who died in the Apollo 1 disaster of '67 & the Columbia disaster of '03) & Pray pardon me for not marking the day itself.

Ad astra per aspera.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
Michigan 87-73 Iowa
13-9, Big Ten 3-6

What a game! While the tenacious Hawkeyes are the worst team in the Big Ten, following the emotional win over the dastardly Spartans I feared the valiant Wolverines might be ripe for a letdown. In the early going, these fears seemed to be coming true as Iowa shot 100% from the field, but no team can long sustain such sharpshooting. Just like that the valiant Wolverines turned the tide & engaged the tenacious Hawkeyes in a seesaw struggle that saw Michigan take a three-point lead into halftime. In the second half, the valiant Wolverines put on their own display of improbably proficient shooting & built a lead of twenty-one points, too great an obstacle for the tenacious Hawkeyes to surmount. Iowa closed to gap to eight points, but with skill & determination Michigan grew the gulf back to fourteen points. And on the last play of the game Michigan's Darius Morris secured the rebound necessary to earn a triple-double: twelve points, eleven assists, & ten rebounds! Woot! What a game!

One of the television announcers described the Michigan State game as "pivotal." Let us hope that is indeed the case, & today's win a demonstration of such, as the next game is against the (№ 1) hated Buckeyes, one of only two remaining undefeated teams, followed by more manageable contests against the ferocious Nittany Lions, the scholarly Wildcats, & the wily Hoosiers. Is a .500 Big Ten record still feasible? I have to believe that it is. And why not? After all, in the last four days the valiant Wolverines have trebled their number of conference victories, & in fine style. Let's go Blue!

Thursday, 27 January
Michigan 61-57 Michigan State (№ 25)
12-9, Big Ten 2-6

I sat down to watch Thursday's game with every expectation of watching the valiant Wolverines fall before the merciless onslaught of the dastardly Spartans. True, this season's dastardly Spartans did not seem to be up to their usual par, but also remember that the valiant Wolverines had dropped six straight games, including a demoralizing trio of defeats at the mediocre hands of the wily Hoosiers, the scholarly Wildcats, & the (№ 16) luckless Golden Gophers. I expected debacle, but—I suppose to my credit—tuned in to the game to stand by the Maize & Blue, come what may; I was rewarded with a spectacle just this side of being beyond belief: The valiant Wolverines stood toe-to-toe with the dastardly Spartans! The valiant Wolverines lead at the half! The valiant Wolverines withstood the dastardly Spartans' furious last-minute assault! The valiant Wolverines won! The valiant Wolverines won!

Michigan is, first & last, a football school; both the basketball & hockey teams play in stadia named after football coaches-cum-athletic directors, the former in Crisler Arena (after "Fritz" Crisler) & the latter in Yost Ice Arena (formerly home to the basketball team as Yost Fieldhouse, after Fielding H. Yost). The pall will not be lifted from Ann Arbor until our glory has been reclaimed on the gridiron. But as our nigh illiterate "little brothers" in East Lansing painted their chests to remind us, before Thursday's game it had been over three years since Michigan had defeated Michigan State in either football or men's basketball; by beating them in their own Breslin Center, by putting an end to that awful counting of the days, & by silencing the debauched cretins of the "Izzone," the valiant Wolverines reminded us of the proper order of things, of the rectitude of the Maize & Blue's triumph of those in the Green & White. Win or lose, it's always great to be a Michigan Wolverine, but our fight song isn't titled "The Victors" for nothing.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "The Moon and Mars" from Schematics (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 29 Januar
The Aquabats!, "The Shark Fighter!" from Hi-Five Soup! (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: New album!

"I had a girl who was precious to me,
But a shark took her away, you see.
Now I fight sharks not for money
But for love, and that ain't funny, yo.
And here's why
I will avenge my lady with my life,
Or until I die in a fight
Against the underwater army of the night!
This rhyme tells the story of the…

Shark fighter! Toughest man in the sea!
Shark fighter! With his wavy blond hair flowing so freely!
His only goal is a shark casserole,
His only creed is to make sharks bleed,
He is not mean he's just getting even,
He will not die 'til all sharks cry!"

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Blood Red Shoes, "It's Getting Boring By the Sea" from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I did not attend the roller derby bout on Sunday, 16 January. I regret the decision not to attend, but I was fatigued after two consecutive nights of staying out late skanking to The Loose Ties. The Wednesday after the bout, my mobile telephone rang; the handy exterior screen showed a incoming number, not a name, meaning the call was not from a number listed in my registry. I usually do not answer such calls, but a few days earlier I'd missed a call from The Most Dangerous Game, ringing me from a landline at her workplace; so, I opened my flip phone, pressed "SEND," & said, "Ahoy-hoy," which I am phasing in to replace my formerly habitual greeting, "Y'ello" (a sloppy contraction of "yeah" & "hello"). The caller did I identify herself, but stated that she was calling for Mike Wilson on behalf of the Flint City Derby Girls. I identified mysel, & she informed me that I had won a prize in the raffle held at the bout I'd missed. At the fall's bouts, two types of raffle tickets had been sold, those for the fifty-fifty raffle held at every bout & fancier tickets for a raffle to be held on 16 January. This raffle, & my purchase of a handful of tickets for same, had entirely slipped my mind. The grand prize? An electric guitar. I know next to nothing of guitars, but they made it out to be a pretty sweet axe. I did not win the guitar. Instead, I won a $100 gift certificate to a tattoo parlor in Fenton, which the caller sent me in the post, arriving on the subsequent Friday.

I have one tattoo, a black skull-&-crossbones on my left forearm, inked almost nine years ago. I have plans (designs & placements decided after long & sober reflection) for a great many more tattoos, but I cannot justify the expense until I have brought Project RADIANT to a successful conclusion. This prize, however, is a horse of a different color. The raffle ticket was a trifle; I expected it to be nothing more than a small donation to the Flint City Derby Girls, a token of my appreciation for all the entertainment they provide. But once won I dare not let it go to waste: that would be like spitting in providence's eye. So, I shall soon be acquiring a new tattoo, as soon as I can converse with my future tattooist, to take the measure of his ability & determine which of my ink schemes can be achieved for not more than a trifle above the gift certificate's worth. But which? Not in order of any precedence:

{a} left hand - "M I K E" across the proximal phalanges, Latin cross adorning the metacarpal gap twixt thumb & index finger (after "Joliet" Jake & Elwood Blues) Not at this time, 'twould too severely limit the fields in which I might find gainful employment.

{b} right forearm (mirroring the skull-&-crossbones) - a robot flying saucer used as the original mascot of the Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block

{c} right forearm underside - functionalist-style figure of a man (like on a handicap parking sign or restroom sign) on fire (after the novel The Stars My Destination)

{d} left forearm underside - "He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead." (the opening line of chapter one of The Stars My Destination)

{e} right upper arm/shoulder - black map of the British Raj & Ceylon, with outlines of modern national borders; below which, "The Black Raj," in a Hindi-styled English script

{f} left upper arm (half sleeve) - red dragon, oriental not occidental (after the Fountains of Wayne song "Red Dragon Tattoo")

{g} chest, over heart - black Maltese cross

{h} chest, below right collarbone - red blood drop with "B+", my bloodtype, in white; nearby "In case I perish: I am an organ donor, take what you need."

I have many other ideas, foremost among them the B.T.W. logo, but face the small obstacle of there not being an official B.T.W. logo extant at the moment. Once that's nailed down I'll have to decide upon a place & size & then be confident in that decision for six months before any ink could be applied. A tattoo is a commitment not to be entered into lightly.

Lumi's front brakes are making a horrific grinding sound; not the high-pitched squealing that alerts you to the wearing away of the brake pads, but something altogether more hefty & sinister. Brakes being a rather more basic necessity of successful motoring (There is no reason to fear a fall from a great height, only the sudden stop at the end.), I shall have to have that looked after upon the morrow. Such are the manifold joys of owning a fifteen-year-old motorcar!

On the bright side, at least the new Michelins I had to buy in the fall so as not to perish on the winter's icy highways & byways are giving me oodles of grip on those same icy highways & byways. Vive la France!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Guster, "All the Way Up to Heaven" from Lost and Gone Forever (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Nominations are always welcome, all the way around the clock, all the way around the Accursed Sun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fitz & The Tantrums, "MoneyGrabber" (video) via iTunes (free) Music Video of the Week (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: The song is super fun, the video is eye-catching, but I cannot let the title pass. "MoneyGrabber"? In what way would the grammatically correct "Money Grabber" have been burdensome? Or even the ad hoc "Moneygrabber"? Here I sigh resignedly. Moving right along, I hope to hear & see more from Fitz & The Tantrums in weeks & months ahead.

"Oh, one… two… three…
Oh, one is for the money,
Two is for the greed,
The three times that I told you
That you're the one I just don't need."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I didn't see The Loose Ties perform this past weekend, but not for lack of trying. Going into the weekend, they to whom I am reigning Super Fan were penciled in to play three shows, two on Friday & one on Saturday. Friday afternoon, I traded text messages with my old chum Ska Army (tenor saxophone) & my newer pal Matt (drums, code name pending [possibilities: Nick Andopolis, Drummer Boy, the Human Drum Machine, et alii]) in an attempt to find out the approximate times of the various performances. I'd have liked to have shown up much later to Churchill's on the previous Friday (14 January) & wish I'd been just a wee bit earlier to Jimmy Lum's Aloha Lounge the following Saturday (15 January). Those text messages prompted them to pose similar questions to Phil, the front man (guitar & primary vocals, code name pending). The evolving discussion lead to the revelation of discord within the Mr. & Ms. U. of M.-Flint Pageant, discord that lead The Loose Ties to withdraw from their apparently quite shaky commitment to perform at the disorganized pageant. And then there were two. Within just a few minutes, both Ska Army & Matt informed me that Saturday's performance, at a frat-sponsored event called "Rock U," had been rescheduled for a date in February. And then there was one.

Having been told that The Loose Ties would be arriving at the Aloha Lounge around 9:00 P.M., I contrived to make my entrance between 9:30 & ten o'clock, confident that I'd still be there in plenty of time. I knew this would not be a typical night at the Aloha by the difficulty I had in find a spot in which to park Lumi. I ran my usual checks to make sure that she was locked & all her lights were extinguished, & cautiously picked my way across the ice sheet that was the parking lot. A voice behind me called out that Lumi's dome light was on; when I wheeled around, the chap who'd called out was relieving himself twist his vehicle, parked next to Lumi, & the motorcar on the opposite side of his vehicle. Charming. In accordance with the mantra better-safe-than-sorry, I slide my way back to Lumi, by which point Mr. Public Urination had concluded that he'd been mistaken. Indeed he was, & none of Lumi's lights were lit. He was profuse in his apologies, but I reassured him that he'd acted in good faith, that he'd been trying to do the right thing. Perhaps as a measure of my growth as a Christian, or perhaps due to some other cause, I didn't curse the man under my breath. I wished that he'd taken advantage of the water closets inside Jimmy Lum's Aloha Lounge instead of using the wider world as his toilet, but I didn't wish that he'd freeze to death in retaliation for having wasted my time & compelled me to imperil my life by crossing & recrossing the treacherous ice sheet. I exchanged a few words with Jameson (bass guitar, code name pending), whom I found standing outside amongst his fellow smokers, their collective desire for tobacco outweighing their aversion to the low single-digit temperatures.

Jameson warned me that the Lounge was crowded: despite this, I was entirely unprepared for what I saw before me. I'd never been to Jimmy Lum's Aloha Lounge prior to the Palooka-ville reunion show on St. Stephen's Day 2009 (26 Dezember), but in the year-plus since I've been there nearly half a dozen times, & never before had I seen the Aloha even half as crowded as 'twas upon my entrance. My estimate of the numbers present would run into the scores. In short order I found Matt & Ska Army at the bar, but there was nowhere to go from there. Our trio was briefly made a quartet by Phil, & I high-fived Farr Afield (alto sax. & secondary vocals), but all too soon they dropped the other shoe: The Loose Ties were to be the last act of the night, after who knew how many other bands. Phil peeled off, but soon returned with Cassie (trumpet, code name pending) to inform us that they & an indeterminate number of others were going to go kill some time at Phil's apartment; we were invited, but Ska Army & Matt both elected to stay, ostensibly to keep an eye on the band's equipment. We settled in for a long siege.

Not too much later, I was able to lead us out of where we'd been standing, the narrowest part of the Lounge, to a more open space near the pool tables, at the opposite end from the stage. Our circumstances thus improved, we soon concluded that Mister Rogers should have run for president, that once in office he should not have been subjected to the term limits enshrined in Amendment XXII, & that his vice president should have been LeVar Burton; had all this come to pass, the world would surely be a paradise. As the crowd waxed & waned some stools opened up & we pounced upon them like drowning men grasping a lifebuoy. Here we set up camp for what turned out to be the rest of the night. A very drunk & distracted Farr Afield joined us for a spell before returning to the pool tables. Phil returned after what must have been a brief sojourn at his place, & railed, in his genial manner, against the lack of professional that was the hallmark of so many of the venues in which the band has played. The core trio remained, with others coming & going, & we talked about everything in general & nothing in particular. Towards the end, Cassie & Dick (trombone & tertiary vocals, code name pending; also, engaged to Cassie) joined us, & Dick gave me the most fascinating history lesson, relating the pre-history of The Loose Ties, the order in which current members joined the band's earlier incarnation Another Misprint, & the tales of heartbreak & intra-band dating that inspired several of the songs. An example: The first Loose Ties song to which I skanked was the fun, unimaginatively-named "Becca's Song," written & sung by Farr Afield; 'tis about the dissolution of her relationship with Phil, a fact which Phil related with evident chagrin.

By 1:00 A.M., The Loose Ties still had not taken the stage. The band on stage kept playing & playing & playing, & yet another band, the Amity Effect, were scheduled to go on before The Loose Ties. A little conference was held at our station at the rear bar & the decision was taken, "Let's get the hell out of here." More than three hours after I'd arrived, having not seen my favorite local band perform, I helped load the band's unused instruments & equipment back into Ska Army's hideous Element & Matt's generic sedan, said our farewells, crossed the ice sheet of death back to Lumi, & motored home. Not the Friday night I was expecting, but not a bad Friday by any stretch of the imagination.

The Roster
I invited The Most Dangerous Game, The Impossible Ingenue, Vitamin H., The Cowgirl, the Action Hero, Frankenstein's Monster, Love/Hate, & a prospective paramour code named The Princess to accompany me to the Aloha Lounge. I received two responses: The Ingenue was working (as I expected) & The Princess was going to the pageant to support one of her sorority sisters. The others couldn't be bothered even to decline.

The Queue
Spy Line is my first large-print book. The G.D.L.'s sole copy of Spy Line was shown as having been withdrawn from circulation, & as such the automated system would not allow me to put in a "hold" request for the book. I inquired from a librarian how I might go about requesting the book from a different municipal (or whatever) library system, & was informed that Spy Line was available in the large-print section. No suitable answer was forthcoming as to why that volume didn't show up when I queried the automated system. Let's hope the large print does not prove too distracting.

Len Deighton, Winter: A Novel of a Berlin Family
C. S. Lewis, illustrated by Papas, The Screwtape Letters
Len Deighton, Spy Hook

Len Deighton, Spy Line

Len Deighton, Spy Sinker
Karen E. Olson, Driven to Ink
Len Deighton, Faith

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
22-20s, "Latest Heartbreak" via iTunes, (free) Single of the Week (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Project GLOWWORM or He's Dead, Jim?
Since acquiring my new spectacles in October, I've worn them an average of between two & three days per week. This frequency has been facilitated by the grays skies of the fall & winter, as I do not need to switch back & forth between my spectacles & my $10 filling-station imitation Wayfarer sunglasses for motoring (my eyes are quite sensitive to the rays of the Accursed Sun). And rest assured, gentle readers, the Secretary of State of the State of Michigan has reaffirmed as recently as September that I do not require corrective lenses to operate a motorcar. But this does raise a question: Am I a poser for ever wearing my spectacles in public? I do not need spectacles to function, but they are legitimately-prescribed spectacles, not a costume piece. But am I treating them as a costume piece? I function without my spectacles by virtue of the crystal-clear vision from my left eye compensating for the nearsighted fuzziness from my right eye; what I need then are not spectacles but a monocle, but we can all agree that at this early stage of Project GLOWWORM my wardrobe is not up to snuff with sporting a monocle. Years ago, when I saw a monocled man in the lobby of the Empire State Building, from head to toe he looked every inch a monocle-wearing man; I dare not strive for less.

I was prompted to visit the optometrist (my eyes' physician is more than an optician, but I do not know if he could accurately be characterized as an ophthalmologist) by two incidents in which causes unknown—though low light is suspected—caused a temporary blurring in the vision from my left eye, but the condition had not recurred for months before I finally visited the optometrist, nor at any time since, regardless of the presence or absence of my spectacles. And I put to the optometrist the specific question of whether allowing my dominant left eye to remain dominant was adversely effecting the eye, to which he replied in the negative. There is thus no medical necessity to wearing my spectacles ("He's Dead, Jim"); so, does that place their usage squarely & solely in the realm of style (Project GLOWWORM)? They are prescription spectacles, & when removing them after prolonged usage my vision requires a few minutes to adjust back to normal. I quite enjoy closing my left eye & being able to see sharply objects more than a foot or so away with my right eye. I am the only member of my immediate family who does not require corrective lenses for everyday living & I have long assumed 'twas only a matter of time 'til that was no longer true. Am I wearing my spectacles so often to prepare for that eventuality? Or because I like the way they look & like the way I look in (& through) them? I've no answer. Thoughts?

A month ago, after four months of unrestrained growth, I maimed my beard in an attempt to impose order upon its unruly magnificence. This was necessary, though the precise outcome was unfortunate. (The nice thing about hair is that in the fullness of time it grows back.) My beard is now back to a presentable length; the experimentation to find the ideal, sustainable length continues, a task I never encountered during the Banzai Beard Bonanza II. With my moustache, I am encountering the difficulties I found in the latter stages of the Magnificent Moustache Malarkey, namely the asymmetry of the flying handlebars—the left inverted gull wing tends to flatten out compared to the rounder curl of the right—& the regular trimming necessary to keeping the hairs out of my mouth & maintain the aspect I want. A few more weeks of growth are necessary before we reach the maximum limits seen during the Malarkey, & as with the beard the process of finding the ideal, sustainable length will be ongoing. I've not used the moustache wax since the Malarkey, but its return cannot be too distant in the future.

I love my moustache. I also love not shaving, but that doesn't make the love of my moustache any less genuine.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Reel Big Fish, "All I Want is More" from Turn the Radio Off (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXIX - The Fashoda Incident of 1898 & the subsequent "Fashoda syndrome."

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Hey Monday, "Wish You Were Here" from the Beneath It All E.P. (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 22 Januar
The House Band, "Pharaoh" from Green Linnet Records: The Twentieth Anniversary Collection (T.L.A.M.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Heavy, "How You Like Me Now" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Setting aside the appalling grammar for a moment, the title should be "How You Like Me Now?" as 'tis clearly an interrogative statement, not a declarative example of same.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXVIII - Sir David Attenborough (b. 1926).

The Queue
Reading Winter: A Novel of a Berlin Family before embarking upon the "Hook, Line, & Sinker" trilogy was the right move, as already within the first third of Spy Hook I've encountered characters & events from Winter that were found nowhere in the "Game, Set, Match" trilogy. Spy Hook would be absolutely intelligible without having read Winter, but having done so adds a depth & richness to Bernard Samson's world. Score!

To understand the joke of the following license plate, spied when last I was in Ann Arbor, it is necessary to know the make & model of the motorcar thus licensed: an Audi TT. The license plate, which I thought rather clever, read: CELTTIC.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Blue Van, "Independence" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: In honor of tonight's return/half-season premiere of Royal Pains (styled as ℞oyal Pains), one of the precious few shows on television to have an opening credits sequence. There is much to recommend the show beyond that, of course.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Madness, "Swan Lake" from One Step Beyond… (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I saw Black Swan on Monday afternoon (what a way to spend a non-holy holiday), & ever since have been using Madness's "Swan Lake" to sate my jones to hear more of Swan Lake. Score! If you have not seen Black Swan, I recommend it highly; the tale is dark, dark, dark, but spellbinding in its ugliness & beautiful in its observations about the creative life. (Writes one with pretensions of creativity & aspirations to be creative professionally.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Victors
(№ 21) Mississippi State 52-14 Michigan
7-6, Big Ten 3-5

I've tarried too long already, but now belatedly comment upon the fiasco of the Gator Bowl, the firing of Rich Rodriguez, & the future of Michigan football under Brady "Is this a ƒ#*@ing joke?" Hoke.

The Fiasco
Hope springs eternal*, & in the early stages of the game I was thrilled to see Shoelace return to his demigodlike early-season form, slashing through the epithetless Bulldogs' defense with aplomb. But then stark reality reared its ugly head, & woe became the order of the day. No coach should ever be hired or fired on the basis of a single game, but the disaster of New Year's Day 2011 can be viewed as the entire Rodriguez era in a nutshell. "Misery, misery, misery."

The rest of the day was awful, too, football-wise, with the Big Ten being defeated in game after game after game. The only bright spot was the destruction of the dastardly Spartans at the hands of the devil Saban. {1} Big Ten loyalty has never applied to Michigan State, because that jumped-up vocational school is not up to par with the academically rigorous rest of the conference. (The University of Nebraska—Lincoln, the forthcoming twelfth member of the Big Ten, is rather a good school & will be a welcome addition to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the academic counterpart to the athletic Big Ten.) {2} More importantly, it was right & proper for the dastardly Spartans to suffer at the hands of their former coach, & so gain of measure of understanding of what the rest of the conference went through when the devil Saban held infernal sway in East Lansing. The dastardly Spartans were only too happy to be in league with the devil Saban when it suited their purpose; I derived more than a little pleasure at their utterly dismantling by the devil Saban's epithetless Crimson Tide.

The Firing
I've been saddened over the last three years to see the venomous insularity of my fellow Michigan fans in their attitudes toward Rich Rod; we revealed ourselves to be as small-minded & hateful as our rivals often accuse us of being. But my purpose here is not to search our collective soul for the better angels I pray are hidden somewhere in our nature.

I'm sorry to say it, but Rich Rod had to go. I write that not because of his 15-22 record in three seasons at Michigan (.405, the lowest winning percentage of any head coach in Michigan's one-hundred-thirty-plus-year history), but because of the way in which he lead us to that lowly record. Each year of Coach Rodriguez's tenure saw our defensive performance drop precipitously, until this year we fielded the statistically-worst defense in that same one-hundred-thirty-plus-year history. One is tempted to reach the conclusion that Rodriguez consistently forgot that he was Michigan's head coach & acted on the presumption that he was only the offensive coordinator, with no rôle to play in our defensive or special teams units. One is doubly tempted to reach that conclusion because otherwise the incompetence Rodriguez displayed in the selection & supervision of his defensive & special teams staff beggars credulity. The single best argument for firing Rodriguez is that he did not fire defensive coordinator Greg Robinson the day after the debacle against the hated Buckeyes, nor in the aftermath of the disaster against Mississippi State; this raises the terrible specter of Robinson having been retained, in all his gross incompetence, had Rodriguez himself been retained, & that is a fate too horrible to contemplate. Rich Rod had to go, & though I was at first confused by the timing of the firing, I support Athletic Director Brandon's explanation of why that didn't take place until after the Gator Bowl: for the kids, so that the coaching search wouldn't overshadow their bowl experience.

I supported Coach Rodriguez throughout his three-year tenure, featuring the Shepard Fairey-inspired image below as my Farcebook portrait throughout the fall.

But his utter mismanagement/neglect of the defense & the special teams made untenable his continuation as Michigan's head coach. Apparently, having a stylized image of yourself affixed above the word "Hope" is a surefire indicator of the base falseness of the hope you offer.

The Future
Perhaps I am overly influenced by Brian Cook of, but as late as 3 January (before Rodriguez was officially fired) I was ridiculing my Uncle Jim's suggestion that Brady Hoke be named the next Head Coach of Michigan football. Though he himself attended the University of Cincinnati, my uncle, as a native Ohioan, supports the hated Buckeyes; he was a high school wrestling teammate of Hoke, & remains personally acquainted with our new big cheese. As soon as Hoke's hiring was announced, my uncle declared that 1 January 1998 (the day of valiant Wolverines' won the 1997 National Championship with their 21-16 victory over Washington State in the Rose Bowl) was (sic) "the peek of the UofM football program." (I suppose that he meant the "peak" of our football program, since "peek" doesn't make much sense in that context; the man does support the hated Buckeyes, so you have to presume he's all but illiterate). That bit of uncouth mockery was more than enough for me to "de-friend" my uncle on the Farcebook. The man's an ass—not just because of this, he's always been an ass—& I'll be quite happy to go the rest of my life without ever again being subjected to his abrasive personality.

A fortnight later, I am reconciled to Hoke's hiring, both as a fait accompli & because it has quelled, at least for the nonce, the bitter internecine quarreling that marked the Rodriguez era. But while I am hoping for the best, I am preparing myself for the worst. After all, whatever glowing praise Hoke receives from former Michigan players & coaches, his resume does not inspire confidence: in eight seasons as a head coach (six at Ball State in Indiana, two at San Diego State in California), he's coached five losing seasons to only three winning seasons (& one of those was a paltry 7-6) for a cumulative head coaching record of 47-50. For those of you keeping score at home, 47-50 is a losing record. Hoke does boast a winning record in his two seasons at San Diego State, a breathtaking 13-12. The man's clearly a titan in his field.

But for all that, I am not going to be like those rat bastards who damned Rich Rodriguez from the day he was hired & didn't quit damning him 'til he was fired. I'm a craven wretch, but I'll not sink to the same subterranean level as those finks. For good or for ill, Brady Hoke is Head Coach of the valiant Wolverines, & he has both my support & my best wishes for the years ahead. We will be Michigan again, & those who stay will be champions. Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Superchunk, "Animated Airplanes Over Germany" via iTunes (The Guy)

Commentary: Keep those nominations coming!

*The turn of phrase "hope springs eternal" was chosen long before Brady Hoke was named the valiant Wolverines' new head coach, bringing along with him innumerable & inevitable repetitions of the pun "Hoke springs eternal," which currently adorns the banner atop

Monday, January 17, 2011

After a rather homebound Advent & Christmastide, 2011 came roaring to life this weekend. Friday saw a double-header, first Art Walk with Vitamin H. & then The Loose Ties at Churchill's, the unofficial campus bar. I met up with Vitamin H. on campus & we began the unseasonable walk through the wintry streets of downtown Flinttown, stopping first at the Rowe Building (alas, not after Mike of Dirty Jobs renown) where by chance we met several of the Loose Ties: my buddy Ska Army (tenor sax), the delectable Farr Afield (alto sax, vox), & Phil (guitar, lead vox), the not yet code named front man. We also met Joel Rash, who needs no code name, the tireless promoter of the Vehicle City's cultural life & honcho of the soon-to-reopen Flint Local 432, the site of many of Blue Tree Whacking's greatest moments. The Buckham Gallery supplied both the sublime & the substandard, while the Greater Flint Arts Council was altogether too crowded for either of our liking, leading us to take refuge inside Saint Paul's Episcopal, where we were treated to some lovely organ music, even though the darkness outside made it impossible to appreciate the full beauty of the church's stained-glass windows. After that we had a light dinner & an incongruously serious conversation on a very private matter.

At Churchill's, having left Vitamin H. at her dorm room, there was scarcely room to skank. I'd never before seen so many people dance at a Loose Ties show; it was grand! A few songs in, I was tapped on the shoulder. I wheeled to let whomever it was by, but instead a girl with wavy blond tresses asked me when I was going to "show them how it's done." Apparently, I was recognized & remembered from a previous show. I had not my opportunity until about two-thirds of the way through, when several persons exited the dance floor. As I went about burning up the dance floor, a fellow with the blonde complimented me heartily; I explained to him the name of my dance—skanking—& exhorted him to "spread the gospel." Though I usual linger after a show to help the Loose Ties pack their equipment into their motorcars, on this occasion I made a swift exit. I'd left Lumi in a spot directly outside of Churchill's, so that during the show I'd been able to turn away from the "stage" & see her through the bar's large, drafty windows. As I brushed clear Lumi of the snow that had fallen during the several hours I'd been inside, Farr Afield caught me & teasingly chided me about my quick exit. She's beautiful, & I'd have paid real money for a quick, endearing rejoinder; instead, none coming to mind, I just smiled & shrugged my shoulders in admission of being caught red-handed.

Saturday found The Loose Ties playing at Jimmy Lum's Aloha Lounge, & once again I was recognized & remembered by fellow fans not previously of my acquaintance. Two chaps in particular were enamored with my moustache, & greatly amused by my sense of humor (the one based on observation that I use principally with strangers because I have no idea what else to say). To tell you the sad truth, these old bones aren't as young as they used to be & my legs were still worn down from the previous night's show; so, I didn't skank as much as I might have liked. This is intolerable: the chances of finding such a vibrant ska band in this day & age were too small to allow these priceless opportunities to skank the night away pass unexploited. I shall redouble my efforts concerning Operation ÖSTERREICH. It's nice being chummy with The Loose Ties, but I should still sincerely love to make some new friends to accompany me to the shows.

The Queue
Impressionable sod that I am, I really should be reading science fiction (S.F., not "sci-fi"), to further Project PALINDROME, but I find myself unable to resist them lure of Len Deighton's second Bernard Samson trilogy, "Hook, Line, & Sinker." As after Berlin Game, Mexico Set, & London Match, I'll take a non-Deighton interlude before tackling the third of the Samson trilogies, Faith, Hope, & Charity. Whenever I do drive back into science fiction, I'll start with a re-reading of H. Beam Piper's Space Viking, a novel I first read in middle school, when my fondest literary wish was to emulate my father's reading habits; I've grown out of that woebegone ambition, but still feel that I'd like to give the then-astounding Space Viking another read through older eyes. Of course, as ever, there is never enough time; aside from a veritable galaxy of S.F. there is yet more to read of both Deighton & Kipling.

Rudyard Kipling, Kim
Len Deighton, Winter: A Novel of a Berlin Family
C. S. Lewis, illustrated by Papas, The Screwtape Letters

Len Deighton, Spy Hook

Len Deighton, Spy Line
Len Deighton, Spy Sinker
Karen E. Olson, Driven to Ink

Coming Attractions
Given my lethargy over the past month-plus, there is a backlog of half-completed posts filed as "***iN THe WoRKS***" which includes bits & pieces for "Project MERCATOR" & some tangential bearings on Project PANDORA. Hardly satisfactory, I know, & I am cognizant of that fact that you all deserve better from me. I'm trying, gang, I'm trying.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Arcade Fire, "Rococo" via iTunes (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXVII - Richard Attenborough, Baron Attenborough (b. 1923).

I will always love Jurassic Park with a childlike sense of wonder, but I'd have to say my favorite of Attenborough's pictures, that I've seen, is either The Great Escape or The Flight of the Phoenix.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Mike Doughty, "Busting Up a Starbucks" via iTunes (The Guy)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "All Kinds of Time" from Welcome Interstate Managers (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 14 Januar
She & Him, "Lingering Still" from Volume Two (T.L.A.M.)


"And the world's like a science
And I'm like a secret."

Donnerstag, 13 Januar
Liz Phair, "Headache" via iTunes (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Commentary: "Headache" must be one of Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.'s favorites, because this is the second time she's nominated it as the R.B.D.S.O.T.D., albeit with a threee-and-a-half year gap twixt nominations. Nominations are always welcome, dear readers, always, with no stigma attached to repeat nominations. Please keep them coming.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Florence + The Machine, "Dog Days Are Over" via iTunes (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Commentary: Skeet instructs, "To be listened to while fantasizing about never having to come back to the ziggurat ever again," "the ziggurat" being a facetious name by which I referred to her skyscraper office building. She countered that it's really more of a monolith than a ziggurat, & she's dead on, but ziggurat is the more fun word to type & say.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Liz Phair, "Divorce Song" via iTunes (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Liz Phair, "H.W.C." from Liz Phair (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Commentary: "H.W.C." has been the R.B.D.S.O.T.D. previously, part of my annual mockery of the soulless bacchanalia of Valentine's Day. Due to my well-known prudishness/squeamishness, Mrs. Skeeter, Esq. expressed the following sentiment: (sic) "although, i'm actually a little surprised at you".

"Face it, one of these days,
Without you I'm just another Dorian Gray,
It's the Fountain of Youth,
It's the meaning of life,
So hot, so sweet,
So whet my appetite."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Explorers Club
No. CCXVI - The splendor & scandal of the Blenheim Palace.

The Victors: Project OSPREY
(№ 3) Kansas 67-60 Michigan (O.T.)
11-5, Big Ten 1-2

Overtime time, lads & lasses, overtime time! Against the № 3 team in all the land,—a team that averages almost 86 points per game, & which had been winning games by an average margin of twenty-six points—coming back from deficits of fifteen points in the first half & thirteen at the nadir of the second to force overtime time was a genuine moral victory. And the valiant Wolverines held the Jayhawks to almost twenty points below their season average, even after affording them five extra minutes of play. That's dynamite! Of course, a loss is still a loss, & our baleful shooting percentage is worrisome, but it was nice to see us return to the defensive form that had been lacking since the beginning of conference play. (Yes, Kansas shot poorly, but not without help from the valiant Wolverines' tenacious D.) No one, yours truly included, thought Michigan had a chance in hell of beating Kansas; forcing overtime time was a far great reward than I'd dared imagine awaited us. Woot!

Wednesday, 5 January
Wisconsin 66-50 Michigan
11-4, Big Ten 1-2

Mind you, the pesky Badgers had been ranked (№ 24) in the previous week's Top 25 poll (the inferior coaches poll version*); so, they weren't your garden variety non-ranked conference opponent. Plus, Wisconsin's Kohl Center is one of the toughest venues in the Big Ten. All that said, though, our inability to muster much in the way of a challenge to the pesky Badgers, somewhat off their game compared to the last several seasons, was frustrating & demoralizing. If ever we are to enjoy any degree of success, we're going to need to learn how to win conference road games, even in Madison. Curses!

Sunday, 2 January
Michigan 76-69 Penn State
11-3, Big Ten 1-1

Though watching the first half was mightily vexing, I was well pleased with the valiant Wolverines' response in the second half, especially that of #0, the always scrappy Zack Novak. In a battle between two of the Big Ten's most ineffectual offenses, I was glad to see the winning final score relatively soar into the 70s. And, hey, given the disappointment of the '09-'10 campaign & the enormous questions mark hanging over the '10-'11 valiant Wolverines in the pre-season, any win they can walk away with is a good win.

Go Blue!

Elsewhere in Project OSPREY…

(№ 23) Illinois 69-61 Wisconsin

Not quite Purdue (№ 11) versus Ohio State (№ 2), but still a match between two Big Ten teams better than Michigan. Having watched the inexplicable juggernaut of the pesky Badgers over the last several seasons, I find their current struggles equally inexplicable. Illinois's prosperity under Bruce Weber is somehow less irksome than Wisconsin's under Bo Ryan; I've no full explanation, though of course I suspect bleed over from the schools' respective football teams. An interesting game, displaying many skills I hop the valiant Wolverines will hone over the next couple of seasons.

*All other rankings used in "Project OSPREY" comes from the superior A.P. Top 25 poll.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Alberto Lizzio & the London Symphony Orchestra, "A Night on the Bare Mountain" (by Modest Mussorgsky) from London Symphony Orchestra Plays Classical Favourites (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Dean Martin, "Marshmallow World" via iTunes (Mrs. Skeeter, Esq.)

Commentary: I fail to understand why "Marshmallow World" is considered a "Christmas song"; the lyrics address the beauty of the winter, but have nothing specific to say about Advent, the Christmastide, or even Santa Claus. Then again, there are literally libraries chockablock with books chock-full of things I fail to understand. But that's neither here nor there. Keep those R.B.D.S.O.T.D. nominations coming!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Queue
The Screwtape Letters is an impulse read, not part of the plan, which was to dive right into the "Hook, Line, & Sinker" trilogy hot on the heels of Winter, which was an absolutely smashing read. I'll be back to Deighton's relentless, restless cynicism soon enough. The title of this particular edition of The Screwtape Letters (also including the later work "Screwtape Proposes a Toast") is in contention: the front cover gives it as The Illustrated Screwtape Letters, the title page as The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast, & the copyright page as The Screwtape Letters: Special Illustrated Edition.

Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink
Rudyard Kipling, Kim
Len Deighton, Winter: A Novel of a Berlin Family

C. S. Lewis, illustrated by Papas, The Screwtape Letters

Len Deighton, Spy Hook
Len Deighton, Spy Line
Len Deighton, Spy Sinker

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Murky Transport Disaster, "Christmas Should Be Lasting All Year Long" from The Murky Transport Disaster Disaster Transport Transport Disaster (K. Steeze)

Commentary: The perfect song for the day after the end of the Christmastide. "Christmas Should be Lasting All Year Long" opens with a well-intentioned but legally-dubious excerpt from the seminal film A Christmas Story, the dulcet tones of Jean Shepherd. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Epiphany
The Klezmonauts, "We Three Kings of Orient Are" from Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: And thus closes the sacred season of the Christmastide, with the Epiphany, the revelation of the Christ to we Gentiles, in the persons of the Magi. Merry Christmas, darling readers!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Eleventh & Twelfth Days of Christmas
Nat King Cole, "Joy to the World" from Christmas with Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!" The Christ is born & the Christmastide draws to an end, but the love of Christ goes on all the year long. May the love of Christ—both your own love for the Christ & His boundless love for you—be in your heart & a song of joy be on your lips. Joy to all the world!

Dienstag, 4 Januar
Duvall, "Joy to the World" from O Holy Night (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: An instrumental rendition of "Joy to the World" replete with shredding guitar.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Tenth Day of Christmas
The Klezmonauts, "Joy to the World" from Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Joy to the World" from Oy to the World: How could I have resisted even had I wanted to?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, & Ninth Days of Christmas
Toby Keith, "We Three Kings" from (iTunes's free) Holiday Sampler (T.L.A.M.)

Samstag, 1 Januar 2011
Sufjan Stevens, "The Little Drummer Boy" from Songs for Christmas (T.L.A.M.)


"Little baby,
I am a poor boy, too,
I have no gift to bring,
That's fit to give our King,

Is there any amongst us who has a gift fit for our King? Nay, & we never could. All He asks is that we try our best.

Freitag, 31 Dezember 2010
The Klezmonauts, "Away in a Manger" from Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Believe you me, I would never permit "Away in a Manger" to be a R.B.D.S.O.T.D. if there was any truth to the legend that it was written by Old Scratch's toady Martin Luther.

Donnerstag, 30 Dezember 2010
David Archuleta, "The First Noel" from (iTunes's free) Holiday Sampler (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I am quite fond of Noel as a Christian name, Noël for a lad & Noelle for a lass (yes, I recognize the inconsistency, I acknowledge the names should be either Noël & Noëlle or Noel & Noelle; chalk my inconstant preference up to eccentricity).